Flight Behavior

Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior. New York: HarperPerennial, 2012.

Reason read: I love, love, love Kingsolver’s writing. Challenge be damned!

“A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and that is one part rapture” (p 1). This is the very first sentence in Flight Behavior. The thing about Kingsolver’s writing is that she has the ability to look at the human condition and give it emotions and intelligence. How many of us have been slightly excited about ruining our lives in some manner? There is a certain buzz about the brain when the potential for destruction shows itself. Like imagining yourself hurtling out of a speeding vehicle, your hand reaching for the latch…
Dellarobia is a young housewife trapped by circumstance: uneducated, having only graduated from high school; untraveled and naive, never setting foot outside her backwoods county. She is rooted in place with two small children, always bowing down to the criticisms of an overbearing mother-in-law who still has her son wrapped around her little finger. Dellarobia’s entire life has been one pitfall after another. Marrying her high school boyfriend after he gets her pregnant locks her into the only relationship she’s even known. Poverty has kept her stuck in a never ending cycle day in and day out. So when the opportunity for small indulgences dance into view, she takes them in the form of hopeless crushes and fantasies of infidelity. She was on her way to meet her newest flame; on her way to finally overstepping that boundary of no return when something scared her into going back. Vanity had forced Dellarobia to leave her glasses behind when she hikes up a mountain to meet her illicit love interest. Through the blur a burning fire appeared, changing her life forever.

Lines I loved (out of a million), “Plenty of people took this way out, looking future damage in the eye and naming it something else” (p 1), and “If she could pretend ice cream flavored breakfast snacks did not cause obesity, he might overlook the less advantageous aspects of lung cancer” (p 169).

Author fact: Kingsolver is partly responsible for my love affair with the southwest. Because of her I dream of visiting Arizona.

Book trivia: I read a lot of interviews where readers are disappointed with Kingsolver’s didactic storytelling. Get over it, people! Kingsolver is like that rock musician who needs to tell you about Amnesty International or Planned Parenthood, or how our current political landscape sucks. When the public builds a celebrity a soapbox high enough to see over all the bullsh!t he or she going to stand on that soapbox to say something important to them. How could they not?


Secret Knowledge of Water

Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert. Seattle: Sasquatch, 2000.

Reason read: I’m reading this for several reasons. The original reason was since this is a nature book and John Muir’s birth month is in April I wanted to read this in his honor. Second reason is Earth Day being in April. Duh. Third (and probably most important reason…) I am headed to Arizona in the next month!

I just finished a harrowing tale that involved desperate illegal immigrants trying to brave the scorching harsh desert to make it to the promised land of the United States. Images of Mexican refugees left to die of thirst, roasting in the arid desert played through my mind as I read Craig Childs’s Secret Knowledge of Water. Childs willingly and eagerly traverses this seemingly barren landscape; bringing his readers through ravines and canyons; vast wastelands that look like the epitome of nothingness. But, pay attention to Childs’s lyrical language and a new desert starts to form before our eyes. Dripping caverns create pools of water rich with organisms.
There is an egotistical slant to my interest in a subject or rather, my attention to reading about it. Secret Knowledge of Water was interesting enough but it became more fascinating when Child talked of specific areas I plan to visit in May.

Lines I liked because I am in love with the night sky, “hysterical swarming of stars” (p 14), and “Then the stars took everything” (p 41).
Other lines I liked, “The world changed color when you think you might doe soon” (p 235), and “The entire Grand Canyon is thus a machine devised to capture and drive flash floods” (p 242).

Author fact: Childs also wrote The Animal Dialogues which is on my Challenge list. At the time of Secret’s publication he was a river guide.

Book trivia: The Secret Knowledge of Water does not contain photographs but it does have illustrations.

Nancy said: Pearl wanted to mention another book by Childs but since it was not specifically about Arizona she settled on Secret Knowledge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 30).


Appealing to April

I have a ridiculous number of books planned for this month. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Fiction:

  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope – in honor of Trollope’s birth month being in April.
  • City and the House by Natalie Ginsberg – in honor of April being Letter Writing month.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias – in honor of Oxford Jazz Festival traditionally being in April.
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor – in honor of April being Sibling month and in honor of Library Week.

Nonfiction:

  • The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – in honor of John Muir’s birth month (and the fact we are visiting Arizona soon).
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins – in honor of Library Week.

Series continuations:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr to finish the series read out of order.
  • The Game by Laurie R. King – to finish the series started in honor of Female Mystery month.
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith – to finish the series started in honor of Smith’s birth month.
  • The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne – to continue the series started in honor of Tremayne’s birth month.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwiemana.

Cry of the Kalahari

Owens, Mark and Delia. Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa’s Last Great Wilderness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Press, 1984.

Reason read: Mark and Delia Owens were married in the month of December. Read this in honor of their anniversary.

In 1974 Mark and Delia headed to Africa to start a research project just one year after their wedding day. Cry of the Kalahari is the story of their seven years in the Kalahari Desert. Taking turns, they share their experiences living with brown hyenas, lion prides, and unpredictable jackals, among many other animals. Because most of the animals have never seen humans before they are neither threatened or antagonized by Mark and Delia’s presence. At face value, Cry of the Kalahari is romantic and idealistic.

Admittedly, I have a few issues with Cry of the Kalahari, beginning with the trivial. One, how many times they mentioned the temperatures being 120 degrees in the shade. You are in the Kalahari desert! What did you expect?
Two, their so-called research. They went to Kalahari not really sure what they wanted to work on. When they discovered there was little known about the brown hyena they set about to learn all they could about the species, then they added jackals, and yet after Bones, a male lion, was murdered by hunters they changed their focus to protecting all wildlife of the Kalahari. By the end of the book their focus had widened to include wildebeest. How they received funding for such vague and vast research is beyond me. However, the couple is quick to point out Cry of the Kalahari is not detailed report of their research. That will show up elsewhere they promised.
My third issue is probably the most personal. They claimed over and over they didn’t want to interfere with the wildlife because it would change the validity of their research. They cried as animals starved to death outside their food-laden tent. Yet they had no problem performing a makeshift surgery on Bones, a lion who had broken his leg, or smearing motor oil on Blue, another lion who suffered from parasites. Most likely both of these animals would have died without human intervention. Essentially, the Owenes actions disrupted the circle of life in the Kalahari.

As an aside, the description of the cheetah hitting the wire fence at 70 miles an hour is heart breaking.

Author(s) fact(s): The Owenses are no strangers to the media spotlight. They have been on numerous talk shows. 

Book trivia: there is a generous selection of color photographs in Cry of the Kalahari, along with a smaller section of black and whites.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually talking about another book written by the Owenses when she mentioned Cry. Interestingly enough, in relation to Cry Pearl said Mark and Delia were “expelled from Botswana” because of this book (Book Lust To Go p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zambia” (p 266). Confessional: I deleted Cry Of the Kalahari from the true list of books I needed to read for the Challenge because Cry does not take place in Zambia.


Cactus Eaters

White, Dan. The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind – and Almost Found Myself – On the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Reason read: June is National Hiking Month.

Pure fun. From the comfort of my couch I took great pleasure in reading about Dan White’s adventures while hiking the 2,650+ mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. With his girlfriend Allison for companionship Dan’s account is in turn both funny and didactic. He can be snarky and scholarly in a single sentence. What starts out as an avoidance of the real world turns into a journey of self reflection and maybe, just maybe, a little growing up.
What makes Cactus such a pleasure to read is this is Dan’s account of the first time he hiked the PCT. He has no idea what he’s doing, despite reading up on it in the months leading up to the hike. He isn’t a seasoned through-hiker expertly navigating arid blazing hot deserts. He isn’t a blase professional warding off bear visits with a ho hum attitude. He is cocky in his naivete.

All time favorite line, “I could not stop the racing thoughts about Todd the Sasquatch somewhere out there, tearing up the foothills while exuding massive amounts of man sweat” (p 63).

Author fact: I could tell from the songs White enjoyed singing while on the PCT that he is about my age. An internet search revealed he was born just a few years before me.

Book trivia: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and covers three countries and yet White doesn’t include a single map or photograph. To be fair, his camera didn’t have film in it for part of the trip and he did include one illustration of a journal entry.

Nancy said: Nancy dedicates 25% of the chapter to describing the plot of Cactus Eaters, but not much else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill in the Blank) Trail” (p 94). Confessional: this the second book I am reading from the chapter and I just now noticed while Pearl mentions the four major long-distance trails in the Americas, she only recommends four books. Three of them are about the PCT and the final one is about the Appalachian Trail. Why bring up the Continental Divide or the American Discovery Trail if you aren’t going to include a book or two about them? There certainly was room for a few more recommendations for the chapter.


“Wild Geese”

Oliver, Mary. “Wild Geese.” Wild Geese: Selected Poems. Bloodaxe, 2004.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month

The title poem “Wild Geese” is a small slice of heaven in words. Taking just a little over a minute to read, it sends a mighty message. It’s all about hope, inspiration and self worth in the grand scheme of things. Nature is all around us and we are a part of it. We belong in the universe.

Author fact: YouTube has great videos of Mary Oliver reading “Wild Geese.” They are amazing. Check them out.

Poem trivia: I think everyone likes to quote “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187). As an aside, this is a the last poem I had to read for the chapter. As soon as I read Perrine’s Sound and Sense I will be finished with the entire chapter.


Silly Rabbit Comes Early

Month five of the Challenge. I have made a decision. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t like this big long list with book titles crossed off. While the list of books finished looks impressive I’m not liking the overall concept. I will stick this list thing out for this year, but come December we’re doing something different. Don’t know what yet but definitely something different. Here are all the books for the year with the books for April in bold:

  1. Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  2. In a Strange City by Laura Lippman
  3. By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman (AB)
  4. Recognitions by William Gaddis (DNF)
  5. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  6. Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan
  7. Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz (AB)
  8. Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  9. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
  10. Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
  11. ADDED: A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz
  12. ADDED: Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp
  13. ADDED: Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak
  14. ADDED: Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout
  15. ADDED: Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson (ER)
  16. Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan)
  17. ADDED: The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (AB)
  18. ADDED: In Xanadu by William Dalrymple
  19. ADDED: The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  20. Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose
  21. Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
  22. Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London
  23. ADDED: Alma Mater by P.F Kluge
  24. ADDED: Old Man & Me by Elaine Dundy
  25. ADDED: Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
  26. Good Life by Ben Bradlee
  27. Underworld by Don DeLillo
  28. Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban
  29. Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
  30. Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan
  31. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce DNF
  32. Herb ‘n’ Lorna by Eric Kraft
  33. Polish Officer by Alan Furst – AB
  34. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (Mar)
  35. ADDED: Walden by Henry David Throreau
  36. ADDED: Reservations Recommended by Eric Kraft (Mar/Feb)
  37. ADDED: Selected Letters of Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon – ER (Feb /Mar)
  38. Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle (Mar)
  39. ADDED: Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur (Mar)
  40. Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe (Mar)
  41. Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose (Mar)
  42. Broom of the System (David Wallace (Mar)
  43. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (Apr)
  44. ADDED: Little Follies by Eric Kraft (Apr/Feb)
  45. ADDED: Literary Murder by Batya Gur (Apr)
  46. ADDED: Bob Marley, My Son by Cedella Marley Booker (ER)
  47. ADDED: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Mar)
  48. ADDED: Southern Mail by Antoine de Saint- Exupery (Mar/Apr)
  49. ADDED: Measure of All Things, the by Ken Alder (Apr) AB
  50. Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson (Apr)
  51. Royal Flash by George Fraser (Apr)
  52. Fifties by David Halberstam (Apr)
  53. Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur (Apr)
  54. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  55. Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  56. ADDED: Where Do You Stop? by Eric Kraft (May/Feb)
  57. Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur (May)
  58. Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser (May)
  59. Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma (May)
  60. Petra: lost city by Christian Auge (May)
  61. From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman (May)
  62. Jordan by E. Borgia (May)
  63. Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (May)
  64. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (May)
  65. Flash at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (May)
  66. ADDED: What a Piece of Work I Am by Eric Kraft (Jun/Feb)
  67. Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett (Jun)
  68. Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Jun)
  69. Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (Jun)
  70. Millstone by Margaret Drabble (Jun)
  71. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  72. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  73. At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft (Jul/Feb)
  74. Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (Jul)
  75. Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Jul)
  76. New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc (Jul)
  77. Grifters by Jim Thompson (Jul)
  78. Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Jul)
  79. Snow Angels by James Thompson (Jul)
  80. Ararchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill (Aug)
  81. ADDED: Leaving Small’s Hotel by Eric Kraft (Aug/Feb)
  82. Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (Aug)
  83. Possession by AS Byatt (Aug)
  84. In the Footsteps of Ghanghis Khan by John DeFrancis (Aug)
  85. What Just Happened by James Gleick (Aug)
  86. Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (Aug)
  87. ADDED: Inflating a Dog by Eric Kraft (Sep/Feb)
  88. Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Sep)
  89. Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser (Sep)
  90. Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Sep)
  91. Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (Sep)
  92. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Sep)
  93. Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Sep)
  94. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Oct)
  95. Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (Oct)
  96. Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett (Oct)
  97. Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser (Oct)
  98. Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
  99. Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Collin Cotterill (Nov)
  100. Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
  101. Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
  102. Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)

DNF = Did Not Finish; AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review